So this is an installment in my ongoing (and sporadic) series on the reasons I’ve chosen to self-publish–and the reasons I haven’t. This one falls into the haven’t category.
So, there’s a certain “I’ll self-publish and show you mean publishers (aka “The Man”) how wrong you are about me/my writing/my book!” mentality out there. I can understand the appeal of it, too. If your book has been rejected over and over again by traditional publishers and you go the self-publishing route and do really well, selling lots of copies and making good money, it’s easy to imagine that the publishers who rejected you are looking at your success and crying bitter tears into their cups. How could they have been so wrong? How could they have missed such an amazing opportunity?
Except, realistically, they’re probably not. In fact, in most cases, they’ve already forgotten about you and your book. I’m not trying to be a buzz-killer here, but honestly, even when editors lose a manuscript they hoped to acquire to another publisher, they don’t spend a whole lot of time bewailing their loss. For every manuscript they buy, there are tens (perhaps hundreds) of others they could have bought instead, and the difference between bought and not often comes down to very small things. If the book a publisher wants to buy is picked up by another house, there are many, many more waiting in the wings, and a lot of them are probably just as good or better than the one they lost. And if yours was one they didn’t even want to buy? Frankly, they’re unlikely to even know you self-published it, let alone spend time watching your Amazon rank go into the stratosphere.
Do some self-published authors do really well and eventually get picked up by New York houses who eventually realize their mistake? Absolutely. But believe me, when they do, it’s because it’s a business decision that makes sense now, not because they regret passing on the author’s books in the past. And if they do regret a past error of judgment, it’s not the main reason they change their minds. Publishers win and lose all the time in this game (hello, publishing houses that passed on Harry Potter and the one that paid $5 million for Audrey Niffenegger’s second book) and compared to those whiffs, missing out on a self-published author who sells a few hundred thousand copies at 99 cents (or even $2.99) apiece is small potatoes.
In short, I don’t view my self-publishing efforts as a way to strike a blow against the oppressors. It’s not Occupy the Big 6. It’s just me doing what I enjoy (writing books) and getting them to readers in the way that makes the most sense to me at this point in time.